Mint of Poland Week: Ancient theatre of Epidaurus portrayed on impressive new coin

Mint of Poland week continues working its way through a more eclectic mix than usual with a fine architecture coin. Kicking off a new series called History of Theatre, it’s an ambitious strike with some very high levels of relief. Centred on one of the ancient worlds most widely regarded performance venues, the stone theatre in the Greek province of Epidaurus is a magnificent example of the type, of which there is more further down the page.

To get the obvious disappointment out of the way first, we yet again only have CGI renders to look at, but this one should be shipping now so hopefully we’ll track down some real-world images shortly. First impressions are of the the impressive design, seemingly perfectly suited to the shape of a coin. With ambitious levels of relief, it’s no surprise that this three-ounce fine silver coin is a relatively modest 50 mm in diameter. We often struggle to understand the attraction of the modern double-thickness piedfort coin, but in this case it’s very clear that the thickness was needed to accommodate the depth of strike and the resulting prominence (difference between high and low points). The layered tiers of seating and the stage buildings are beautifully done, at least in the CGI.

It’s actually quite hard to see any negatives with the design, even the inscriptions being unobtrusively integrated. The obverse is another decent twist on the Queens effigy. A requirement for Niue Island issues, it isn’t that common for the obverse on them to be anything other than just the effigy, but the Mint of Poland has made another conscious effort to integrate it into a larger design, something they’re doing with increasing regularity. Here it sits on a background of ancient-style theatrical scenes, along with a couple of busts (not the Queens…), one of Sophocles and one of Aeschylus. Both sides of the coin are antique-finished.

Packaging is a good quality wooden box, something very similar to those being used on almost all of the mints higher-end commissioned coins. Price is around the €300 / £350 mark and it should be shipping any time now. Our sponsors First Coin Co. and PowerCoin both have it up for sale, along with several other dealers. All in all, another fine release. Mintage is limited to 500 units.

2016 HISTORY OF THEATRE: EPIDAURUS

EPIDAURUS, THE ANCIENT GREEK CITY

Epidaurus was a small city (polis) in ancient Greece, on the Argolid Peninsula at the Saronic Gulf. Two modern towns bear the name Epidavros: Palaia Epidavros and Nea Epidavros. Since 2010 they belong to the new municipality of Epidaurus, part of the regional unit of Argolis. The seat of the municipality is the town Lygourio.

Epidaurus was independent of Argos and not included in Argolis until the time of the Romans. With its supporting territory, it formed the small territory called Epidauria. Reputed to be founded by or named for the Argolid Epidaurus, and to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son Asclepius the healer, Epidaurus was known for its sanctuary situated about five miles (8 km) from the town, as well as its theatre, which is once again in use today. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC, when the older hill-top sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas was no longer spacious enough.

The asclepeion at Epidaurus was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. To find out the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. Within the sanctuary there was a guest house with 160 guestrooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity, which may have been used in healing.

Asclepius, the most important healer god of antiquity, brought prosperity to the sanctuary, which in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC embarked on an ambitious building program for enlarging and reconstruction of monumental buildings. Fame and prosperity continued throughout the Hellenistic period. After the destruction of Corinth in 146 BC Lucius Mummius visited the sanctuary and left two dedications there. In 87 BC the sanctuary was looted by the Roman general Sulla. In 74 BC a Roman garrison under Marcus Antonius Creticus had been installed in the city causing a lack of grain. Still, before 67 BC the sanctuary was plundered by pirates. In the 2nd century AD the sanctuary enjoyed a new upsurge under the Romans, but in AD 395 the Goths raided the sanctuary.

Even after the introduction of Christianity and the silencing of the oracles, the sanctuary at Epidaurus was still known as late as the mid 5th century, although as a Christian healing center.

ANGLED VIEWS OF THE COIN

THE ANCIENT THEATRE

The prosperity brought by the asclepeion enabled Epidaurus to construct civic monuments, including the huge theatre that delighted Pausanias for its symmetry and beauty, used again today for dramatic performances, the ceremonial hestiatoreion (banqueting hall), and a palaestra. The ancient theatre of Epidaurus was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC. The original 34 rows were extended in Roman times by another 21 rows. As is usual for Greek theatres (and as opposed to Roman ones), the view on a lush landscape behind the skênê is an integral part of the theatre itself and is not to be obscured. It seats up to 14,000 people.

The theatre is admired for its exceptional acoustics, which permit almost perfect intelligibility of unamplified spoken words from the proscenium or skēnē to all 14,000 spectators, regardless of their seating (see Ref., in Greek). Famously, tour guides have their groups scattered in the stands and show them how they can easily hear the sound of a match struck at center-stage. A 2007 study by Nico F. Declercq and Cindy Dekeyser of the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates that the astonishing acoustic properties may be the result of the advanced design: the rows of limestone seats filter out low-frequency sounds, such as the murmur of the crowd, and also amplify the high-frequency sounds of the stage. (Source: Wiikipedia)

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PRESENTATION AND THE CERTIFICATE

SPECIFICATION

NAME 2016 HISTORY OF THEATRE: EPIDAURUS
DENOMINATION $7 New Zealand
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 93.3 grams
DIAMETER 50.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS Ultra High Relief concave strike
MINTAGE 500
BOX / COA Yes / Yes

 

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